Fred Rogers in 1996 (AP Photo)
Fred Rogers hated television when he first saw it. That's why he devoted his life to working in the new medium, finding a way to turn TV into a means to educate and nurture audiences, particularly children. His landmark Public Broadcasting Service program, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, ran from 1968 to 2001, producing a staggering 1,005 episodes full of songs, stories and life lessons delivered with Rogers' famously gentle voice. We remember Rogers' life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
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2013: Van Cliburn, U.S. pianist who was internationally acclaimed and achieved rock-star status as a classical musician, dies at 78.
Van Cliburn died two years ago today. The pianist was an anomaly in the music world: a classical musician who achieved rock-star status. Adulation usually reserved for stars along the lines of Elvis Presley and the Beatles was heaped on Cliburn when he made his triumphant 1958 return from the Soviet Union at age 23 after winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, a Cold War-era competition intended to showcase the superiority of the host country. Read more
2011: Duke Snider, U.S. Hall of Fame outfielder who played most of his career for the Dodgers and helped them win two World Series titles, dies at 84.
"The Duke of Flatbush" hit .295 with 407 career home runs, played in the World Series six times and won two titles. But the eight-time All-Star was defined by much more than his stats - he was, after all, part of the love affair between the borough of Brooklyn and "Dem Bums" who lived in the local neighborhoods. Read more
2008: Boyd Coddington, U.S. automobile custom designer who was the star of the reality show American Hot Rod, dies at 63.
Coddington, who started building cars when he was 13 and once operated a gas station in Utah, set a standard for his workmanship and creativity, with his popular "Cadzilla" creation considered a design masterpiece. The customized car based on a 1950s Cadillac was built for rocker Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. "That was a groundbreaking car. Very cool," said Dick Messer, executive director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. "He did things to hot rods and customs that weren't being done by anyone else. But the main thing is he designed cars that were drivable." Read more
2008: William F. Buckley Jr., conservative U.S. author and commentator who founded the magazine National Review, dies at 82.
Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of Firing Line, harpsichordist, transoceanic sailor and even a good-natured loser in a New York mayoral race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, the National Review. Yet on the platform he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent's discomfort with wide-eyed glee. Read more
2008: Myron Cope, U.S. sports broadcaster who was known as the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, dies at 79.
Beyond Pittsburgh's three rivers, Cope is known best for pioneering the Terrible Towel, the yellow cloth twirled by fans as a good-luck charm at Steelers games since the mid-'70s. The towel is arguably the best-known fan symbol of any major pro sports team, has raised millions of dollars for charity and is displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "You were really part of it," Steelers owner Dan Rooney told Cope in 2005. "You were part of the team. The Terrible Towel many times got us over the goal line." Read more
2004: Paul Sweezy, U.S. economist and founding editor of the magazine Monthly Review, dies at 93.
2003: Fred Rogers, U.S. television host known for his children's show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, dies at 74.
Over the course of his television career, he wore dozens of sweaters – and until her death, his mother knitted all of them. She gave sweaters as yearly Christmas gifts, and she knew he loved the zip-up cardigan style: "She would say, 'What kind do you all want next year?'" Rogers once reflected. "She said, 'I know what kind you want, Freddy. You want the one with the zipper up the front.'" One of Nancy's handcrafted sweaters is displayed in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (along with Jerry Seinfeld's puffy shirt and the Lone Ranger's mask). Read more
1998: J.T. Walsh, U.S. character actor who appeared in movies including Good Morning Vietnam and Hoffa, dies of a heart attack at 54.
1993: Lillian Gish, U.S. actress who starred in Birth of a Nation and was called "The First Lady of American Cinema," dies at 99.
Gish worked on screens big and small for an amazing 75 years. It wasn't just her longevity that earned her the honorific "First Lady of American Cinema." It was her talent, too – talent that took her from the highly emotive style of early silents to success in talkies, then to Technicolor, television and Broadway stardom. It seemed Gish could tackle almost any type of acting job. Read more
1993: Jose Duval, Cuban actor known as the first actor to portray Juan Valdez in commercials for Columbian coffee, dies at 73.
1992: S.I. Hayakawa, U.S. politician who was a senator for California from 1977 to 1983, dies at 85.
1989: Joe Silver, U.S. actor who made more than 1,000 television appearances during his career, dies at 66.
1986: Jacques Plante, Canadian NHL Hall of Fame goaltender who won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens, dies at 57.
1985: J. Pat O'Malley, English actor who appeared in many Hollywood TV series including My Favorite Martian and Perry Mason, dies at 80.
1985: David Huffman, U.S. actor who had roles in Firefox and The Onion Field, dies at 39.
1980: George Tobias, U.S. actor well-known for his role as Abner Kravitz in the sitcom Bewitched, dies at 78.
1977: Allison Hayes, U.S. actress who starred in the cult classic Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, dies at 46.
1972: Pat Brady, U.S. actor and singer known best as the comic sidekick to Roy Rogers, dies at 57.
1968: Frankie Lymon, U.S. rhythm-and-blues singer in the Teenagers who had a hit song with "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," dies at 25.
Lymon and the Teenagers came by their name honestly, as one of the first great teen pop groups. Before New Edition and Tiffany and New Kids on the Block, before Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys and Hanson, before Justin Bieber and One Direction and Selena Gomez, Frankie Lymon and his bandmates put the "teen" in teenybopper. Read more
1962: Willie Best, U.S .actor who had regular roles as Charlie in My Little Margie and Willie in The Trouble with Father, dies at 45.
1958: Harry Cohn, U.S. businessman and onetime CEO of Columbia Pictures, dies at 66.
1892: Louis Vuitton, French founder of the famous leather goods company, dies at 70.
Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history.